Towards an answer to the Imperial Court: Part 6 the Battle is the Lord’s.

Originally, I thought to discuss marketing, but I felt it was better to move forward and skip that section.

This is partially because I am a lousy marketer. My blogs relatively low traffic often convinces me I am a failure; then again, Truth in the Trenches is relatively young.

And yet, marketing, while it seems so central to our culture where the inane “appearances are reality” can sometimes be a crutch, a replacement for the reality of God’s power.

Like many in apologists, I spend a great deal of time working through the reason and rational of the faith. I cannot argue that this is wrong, God has placed all believer’s in His church, it is dangerous to start devaluing anyone who is in the faith, or any gift He provides. Yet, as important as our gifts are, it is easy to make them in crutches.

Scripture tells us, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness in this present world, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.

Romans 1 discusses the adoption by society in terms, not of man accepting poor arguments, nor in terms of faulty intellect, but in terms of man rejecting God, and God, in turn, letting man walk further down the primrose path to his own destruction.

Unless the Lord keeps the city, the watchman watches in vain.

Our arguments are intensely important, they are in fact a spiritual exercise, an act of worship. Yet, our power comes not from ourselves, but from Him. If our arguments are delivered from ourselves, our strength, our intellect without a recognition that we need Him, we have failed before we leave the gate. On the otherhand, if this is the reproach of Christ, and we go forward in Him, we are successful.

We, to be faithful must raise the arguments, but God does not hold us to account for the results. In a sense, these are His. I am going to ask the most difficult question when it comes to gay marriage. How much have we prayed about this decision? Has this moved us to pray, and weep? To perhaps do some spiritual house cleaning within ourselves? I confess, at first, I focused so much as on the arguments, on filling my own role within the church, I prayed little, though my heart has spent much time on this matter since.

The battle, as always is the Lord’s Let us remember we are in Christ, in it together. Take time to worship.

2 Chronicles 7:14. Maranatha.

Answering the Imperial Court: Part 5 Digging Trenches and placing the Barbed Wire – Why we need to consult lawyers.

A quick review is necessary of the case I’ve made, some will be new, but I believe these are the underpinnings of any defense.

  • The Supreme Court’s decision is based on the dignity of homosexual couples. This means they are ultimately arguing that it is discrimination to treat homosexuality and homosexual marriages as inherently inferior to heterosexual ones.
  • The next battle will be then for those involved in the wedding industry. Based on the reasoning above, we will almost certainly lose this battle.
  • One of the issues brought up in the Supreme Court was the question of Universities, specifically the Bob Jones case. This hints that Christian universities are likely to be the next major battle. It is at this point that I think we should start setting up legal defenses.

Those in the wedding industry will soon be in a position where they will either need to make a choice between whether they will offer incense to the emperor, or face financial ruin. It may be wise to escalate any discussions of those photographers and bakers to the Supreme court now, though I consider these losing efforts.

The real key for the next major battle may be the BJU tax case. I disagree firmly with my alma mater’s previous position. Many evangelicals can perhaps understand Bill Clinton’s dilemma J William Fullbright, a member of the Old Left, and a segregationist who was a mentor to Clinton. Segregation makes no sense from a Christian perspective but it was defended by early premillenialists, on the grounds this led to the church of the anti-Christ by reversing the separation of the nations at Babel. I’ve dealt with that issue elsewhere. Whether or not modern Evangelical’s would condone BJU’s reasoning (which most would not) the key issue was that the question of BJU’s dating policy was ruled not to be exempt even if religiously motivated. As such, loss of 501(c)3 status might have additional issues rather than the cost of maintaining an institution. If I remember correctly, the right of churches and other religious organizations to base hiring decisions on their doctrinal statements is contingent on this status.

There are a number of routes available, but this must be left to the lawyer’s to discuss. Possible avenues to explore might be rewriting University charters placing them under the confines of an individual church, requiring church membership to attend. In most cases, this would simply mean a student would need to transfer their church membership upon admission.

Secondarily, we should likely invite lawyers to look over a church’s constitution and statement of faith to make them “judgment proof.” There have been cases in the past involving Christian counseling and church discipline, and if I recall correctly, the wording of the church’s papers were crucial in some of those cases.

In all cases, Christian businesses, parachurch organization etc., should consult lawyers to make sure they do what they can to protect their rights.

Towards an Answer to the Imperial Court Part 4: Political stakes

            As much as we might desire to avoid politics, they are, unavoidable.

As I noted previously, I consider opinions of a “living constitution” to lack intellectual integrity. I should note from this basis, that I am a limited government conservative, this is motivated both by a view of the original intent of the authors of the constitution as well as by the considerations of Christian doctrine. If man is tainted by sin, and naturally inclined towards evil, then power indeed corrupts. Limiting any one person or body in their scope of power seems the most logical means of preventing government from using power to spread evil rather than to maintain government’s role of keeping human evil in check. Some will argue that this will influence my approach, but then again, this is historically within Baptist views. Baptists were important supporters of Jefferson, Madison and Cromwell.

That said, we should focus our political discussions not in terms of the state’s recognition of marriage. For the moment at least, this battle is lost.

There are two separate, but equally important questions concerning marriage and the court’s decision. The first is the recognition of gay couples by individual government bodies. As I have noted before, I recognize the legal, but not the moral authority, of individual states and the nation to make their own rules in this regard. I ultimately do not care about what tax rates gay couples might pay, and I tend to be libertarian enough to assume that people ought to be able to make their own choice in who makes hospital visits.

Yet the second question, the one we should focus on is the right of Christians to practice our faith unmolested. Gay marriage, as I have argued elsewhere, is being turned into the choice our theological forebears faced in ancient Rome. We are of course allowed to believe what we want, so long as we do not allow it to affect our participation in the civil society. This is, ultimately the problem of the bakers and florists who have been sued and fined into poverty. As has been noted elsewhere, the state of Oregon described this as rehabilitating business that opposed same-sex marriage,[1] this of course is not the same as a Soviet labor camp in form, but it is quite similar in principle. A baker in Colorado has been forced to attend sensitivity training.[2] In New Jersey, a church was required to allow a gay wedding on property it owned.[3]

Make no mistake about it, “Marriage equality” is an establishment of religion, requiring Christians to accept gay marriage in our public lives, no matter what we think in our private lives. Nor is this a law that is merely passive acceptance, it is instead a compulsion by the government in our public actions. Some will argue Christians is discrimination against homosexuals as a class, but the question is not the class of customers, the question is the nature of the event. There are no controversies I am aware of involving a bakery refusing to sell a birthday cake, a cake for a promotion at work, etc to a gay person. The only cakes that have been at issue are wedding cakes. The question, then, is not the character of the person involved – Christians object to the event, itself, and the solution is not to chose a baker who has no such religious compunctions, it is instead to compel by force of law Christians to abandon their principles.

Economic force, while not as arduous as threat of imprisonment, torture or death, is still a use of force to compel religious compliance. It is different then in severity, but not in kind to Roman Imperial persecutions of Christians who refused to offer incense to the emperor, or who refused to worship the Roman gods,[4] but is equivalent in kind. It is thus the importance of first amendment protections that should and must be emphasized.

[1] http://www.redstate.com/2013/08/20/oregon-to-rehabilitate-businesses-opposed-to-gay-marriage/

[2] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/06/03/baker-forced-to-make-gay-wedding-cakes-undergo-sensitivity-training-after.html

[3] https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/judge-rules-christian-facility-cannot-ban-same-sex-civil-union-ceremony-on/

            [4] To the Romans, Christian opposition to Roman worship was “atheism.” Romans considered Christians dangerous because they believed Christians broke the Pax Deium, the peace with the gods, and thus must be compelled to return to the imperial temples.

Towards an Answer to the Imperial Court Part 3: Disorder in the Court

I doubt we will be able to have the case retried, this is a legal outcome in search of a solution rather than a reasoned approach,[1] but it is a point we must, if we are to be able to answer the questions of our age adequately, be ready to answer.

Interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment

I do not like to discuss pure political theory, as an apologist it can be counterproductive. Yet, in my studies of the New Testament, I came to the very clear conclusion that attempts to interpret the New Testament by any standard other than the intent of the author are intellectually dishonest. I cannot in good conscience or by any intellectual slight of hand find any reason to argue that we interpret Scripture by means of authorial intent and judge that the constitution of the United States should be interpreted any other way. Thus, I cannot with integrity accept any argument based on a “living” constitution. Yet, when Justice Kennedy speaks of “discovering” rights in the constitution, it is just such a view he is required to take. It is highly doubtful that the author of the fourteenth amendment would have considered sexual activities to be covered.

Arbitrating religion

The Supreme Court decision requiring all states to implement same-sex marriage is based, ultimately, on the assumption that gay persons are deprived of equal treatment under the law, and therefore dignity. This further appears to be on the legal fiction that the only or primary reason why Christians and other oppose gay marriage is ultimately one of hatred, bias or discrimination, thus denying homosexuals of their dignity. Yet, to make this argument, we must assume that homosexuality should have equal dignity. Sex with a prostitute might very well involve the same acts as marital sex, but we as a society certainly understand that it does not deserve equal dignity. Similarly we do not afford equal dignity to those who engage in sex with multiple partners or who have multiple affairs to those who are faithful to their spouses. Why then would we assume sexual acts and relationships with a member of the same gender deserves equal dignity to heterosexual marriage? The answer, of course is that we assume sex with prostitutes and sex with multiple partners are wrong because of one’s religious beliefs; those who assume that one can be “polyamorous” today ultimately do so as well on a religious set of moral beliefs. Thus, the court has of necessity inserted and established their religious beliefs into the substructure of the decision itself. In doing so, the court has made itself and arbitrator not only on matters legal, but theological.

As Kennedy writes, “This dynamic can be seen in the Nation’s experience with gay and lesbian rights. Well into the 20th century, many States condemned same-sex intimacy as immoral, and homosexuality was treated as an illness.”[2] Yet, the question of morality in marriage is by definition a religious question, and thus to rule that the states were wrong to condemn marriage is no more, nor less, a religiously motivated answer than is that of Christians to argue it should be excluded.

Similarly, Kennedy writes, “It is demeaning to lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the Nation’s society, for they too may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage.”[3] This to, rests on a religious reasoning; the transcendence of marriage is not a matter of law.

The Problem in the Conclusion

As I noted, Justice Kennedy’s reasoning requires an assumption of a religious basis – which is to say, one must assume that sex between people of the same gender is morally equivalent to sex with a spouse of the opposite gender. Justice Kennedy’s second to last paragraph strikes a deathknell for religious liberties if not expanded on.

He writes, “Finally, the First Amendment ensures that religions, those who adhere to religious doctrines, and others have protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”[4]

He more fully states, “Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to adocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine pre- cepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same- sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and search- ing debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.”[5]

He recognizes the rights of Christians to teach their views, but not to carry them into the public square or to base our lives upon them. Thus, no protection of Christian institutions is afforded in this opinion, and in its tone and demarcation, Christian wedding businesses who refuse to participate in gay marriages will likely not find religious protections. Yet, in this, the court is not upholding the purpose of the first amendment, which clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”[6] [emphasis mine] The constitution protects not merely religious opinions, but the fact that government cannot compel Christians to act against their religious beliefs.

The court, in building its case on a religious moral assertions has, in effect made an establishment of religion, and has taken the first step towards judging religions licit and illicit.

            [1] In many senses, this decision itself violates the legal arguments raised by Kennedy in his previous writing of the majority opinion last time gay marriage was discussed. Kennedy had previously implied the States had a near complete right to regulate marriage, until he decided their opinions did not agree with his desired outcome.

[2] Syllabus OBERGEFELL v. HODGES page 2.

            [3] Syllabus OBERGEFELL v. HODGES page 4.

            [4] Syllabus OBERGEFELL v. HODGES page 5.

[5] Opinion of the Court. OBERGEFELL v. HODGES page 27.

[6] The Constitution of the United States, Amendment 1.

Towards an Answer to the Imperial Court Part 2: Assessing the Strategies before us.

So far, listening to the news, I’ve seen a number of reactions to the Supreme Court’s rulings.

Mike Huckabee has stated, eloquently, “I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat,” his response is inspiring and should be read in its entirety, (please note this is not an endorsement of Huckabee’s attempt at the Republican Nomination for president, as an apologist I do not want to endorse a particular candidate in the upcoming election), but its eloquence is long on philosophy and short on actual strategies. There are a number of options we are likely to see discussed.

  • Secession – This often comes up in discussions of major political import. If a state actually takes the steps legislatively towards leaving the union, it is something we may want to consider, as Jesus said, “If they persecute you in one city flee to another,” though this would mean missions of some kind would be needed in the current United States. Yet, a secession by any state in the Union would almost certainly lead to another civil war, particularly since many of the states that would choose to leave the Union would be in the middle of the country, dividing the more liberal coasts. As many of the states most likely to secede (such as Texas) are major income earners for the United States this would further lead to controversies. There are tremendous practical concerns in any such discussion, and is an unlikely outcome in the immediate future; this is therefore at best a backburner answer to the question.
  • Legislation – Senator Ted Cruz[1] and possibly others have discussed the possibility of a constitutional amendment, either stating marriage as between a man and a woman, or other legislation with the proviso that the courts cannot review the issue (which is within the powers of Congress according to the constitution). We are unlikely to see any action that will not be filibustered by Democrats in the Senate, so it is also not a central strategy.
  • Convention of the States – Mark Levin, a major conservative political thinker in his book, The Liberty Amendments has advocated in the past a convention of the States to amend the constitution. On his June 26th radio broadcast, he has advocated this as the ultimate constitutional answer. This would be effective, but would be difficult to sell. While some steam is building towards such an approach, it, like secession, is a “wait an see” posture.

I consider all of these to be inadequate answers to the Supreme Court’s actions. It is clear the country is on its way towards a constitutional crisis, and this is only one issue in that debate. Yet, I do not ultimately advocate any of these approaches. We may very well pursue any or all of these, but all make as a central contention the idea that a nominally Christianized society is our goal.

The problem is not just the Supreme court, the problem is that droves of millennials are favoring gay marriage, and do not tend to favor protections of religious liberties; they view the first amendment as protecting our right to believe the Christian faith, but not to practice it (despite the clear meaning of the word “exercise”). As such, our primary approach must be to formulate not only our arguments, but an approach towards evangelizing not society, but snatching what brands we can from the burning.

As Christians, our desire is always to win the many to Christ. Yet, when God spoke with Ezekiel, His command was not to win the many but to be faithful. I suggest that today is our goal. The question is ultimately not what will society do, but will we offer incense to the Emperor, will we render to Ceasar the things, which are God’s? In this, our only recourse may be civil disobedience, realizing in this life we may suffer for those decisions. We should as Christians of old make our case, and take our stands. Ultimately that is all we can do.

            [1] Cruz has also discussed impeaching justices of the Supreme court, but this will lead to the same challenges as legislation.

Towards an Answer to the Imperial Court part 1: Introduction

On June 22, 1940 the war in Europe looked to be over, and a German victory a virtual certainty. The British, in their long running military tradition of celebrating hope in the jaws of defeat, had been forced to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, and France had been forced to sign an Armistice, with a collaborationist government headed by the hero of France, Field Marshall Philippe Petain. Yet, in many ways, this was not the end of the War, it was very beginning.

Similarly, the battle over gay marriage is not ending with the Supreme court, it is barely beginning. Yes, this is a major defeat, but it is not unexpected. Romans Chapter 1 tells us plainly that societies decline. There are two clear elements of the gay marriage debate, the first is the question of a gay couples relationship to the government, the second is that couple’s relationship to the rest of society. This latter issue is far more important for Christians than the former.

The next battle will continue to be debates over closely held Christian businesses in the wedding industry, as unbelieving society continues to focus on Stalinistic rehabilitation of Christian businesses. The next dominoes will likely be closely Christian businesses who treat gay couples different than legitimately married couples and Christian universities. Finally, their will likely be attempts to sue pastor’s who perform weddings for those who are not members of their congregations who “discriminate” against gay couples, or those who will not allow gay couples into membership. Many will argue that Christians are being hysterical, yet, these same voices argued if gay marriage became the law of the land, bakers and photographers would not be sued or fined out of business; I would question why we should believe the same left this time when they have a history of lying to the public in the past. Kennedy’s comments on religious liberty were wholly inadequate, allowing Christians to believe, but not to practice their faith, a clear violation of the “free exercise clause” of the first amendment (and the very term “exercise” requires that this must extend beyond mere allowance of individual beliefs).

Similarly, Justice Kennedy’s reasoning will likely open debates over polygamy, and perhaps incestuous and relationships involving those under the age of consent since one might very well argue that laws against pedophilia, incest and polygamy also deny human beings equal dignity under the law. The battle is, in many senses, then, just beginning.

Due to the nature of this discussion, I will write a quick series of articles, and will follow this up with a revision of my e-booklet Offering Incense to the Emperor later in the year (this will take time since I want to go over both the majority and all four dissenting opinions as well as a few other articles and works by other bloggers).

This series will entail multiple areas we must consider:

  • Strategic The immediate reaction, and a search towards an adequate strategy.
  • The decision – The logic of the Supreme Court is important in understanding where we are and where we are going.
  • Political – We cannot avoid a political element in the discussion; I will of necessity have to insert my political opinions, which will also require some explanations.
  • Legal – Christians and institutions are at risk, we need lawyers to help us dig the ditches, place the barb wire, and protect as much of our internal structure as necessary. Having lines of retreat may be necessary as well.
  • Spiritual – There is a Spiritual dimension to apologetics, that is sometimes ignored, or dealt with inadequately.

1940 was not the end of World War 2, it was the beginning. It would look darker long before the dawn of an allied victory. Similarly, it likely will get darker for us. We may be forced into difficult choices as our theological forebears who refused to offer incense to the genus of the Emperor. Yet, we have read the last chapter of the book, and we know when He comes, He will reign victoriously.

Responding to the Imperial Court

I heard the news of today’s same sex marriage decision today on my way out the door.  This is sad news, but not unexpected.  Romans 1 predicts this decline in man.

This will lead to persecution.  They will go after Christians in the wedding industry first, then universities and other businesses, and finally churches.  They will of course deny this today, with a, mocking sneer.  They also said with the same mocking sneer that gay marriage would not lead to bakers being sued or fined either, I don’t believe them anymore now than I did then.

I will write more on this on both Truth in the Trenches and from life to Life when I get home tonight. A WordPress app is not a great writing tool. 

Governor Huckabee has captured my sentiments, but refighting the last battle is not possible.  We need to start with the lawyers, to build what barriers we can to protect our institutions – Offering Incense to thr Emperor is not an option.  Secondarily, we need to make sure our statements are clear. We will be likened to Westboro Baptist Church in the press, best not to give them ammunition. 

Weep and pray for your country, but outrage in private. 

Then, put your war face on, this may be a lost battle and a lost front, but only for a moment.  I’ve read the back of the book, we win.